Literary Agent Submission Cover Letters
A cover letter with your submission (usually via email) is your introduction to the literary agent. There is no absolute right way of doing this, just as there is no right way of doing synopsis, since every publisher and literary agents is different, and they want different things from authors. They have likes and dislikes and each one is looking for the right fit, and that is why it really is all down to luck of the draw, but it’s also about how you present yourself to them.
Before you even write a cover letter, you should have spent time searching and researching literary agents and publishers that you think might be able to represent you and your work. You will know that they are currently open to new submissions; they represent your genre, and have an established list of authors on their books.
The research will also have told you whom you should address your letter. Don’t address it to ‘Whoever it may concern’, as this shows a lack of professionalism and lack of focus. Know the contact for your submission. Don’t use first name terms.
You should also have checked what they would like in the subject line of the email. It’s also wise to include your name, address and contact details in the body of the letter, just like any other letter.
The tone of the letter should be business-like and not over friendly. The idea is to keep it professional, but at the same time it allows the agent to see your personality and your capability as a writer. This is the very first impression that will have of you, so don’t be rude or arrogant by telling them you’re the best thing to happen in writing for a long time, or that your book is a best seller.
They will reject you.
The letter should be kept to one page. It’s common to keep to three or four brief paragraphs. Keep it concise. Don’t ramble. Present it in single line spacing, either Arial or TNR font. Agents don’t want fancy fonts and different colours, but they do like to see that it is presented in present tense.
Most writers use the first paragraph to introduce the title of the story, the genre, word count, and when or where it is set in order to set the tone and feel for the story.
Give a brief description of what the story entails. Mention your main characters and their goals, the main conflicts and what they must overcome to reach these goals. Try to be upbeat with the letter rather than mundane. There are different ways you could try to hook the agent’s interest – from the punchy style of the letter, using a line or two from the book that might create interest, or perhaps a catchy one liner. Some writers have written a cover letter in the style of the story. Of course, whether any of this works is really down to the writers. This is why there is no right or wrong way to do it. It’s all about enticing the agent or publisher and making them want to take on your manuscript.
Don’t be afraid to mention where you think the book might fit in the current market and why it may be unique.
Include brief details about yourself. The agent doesn’t need to know your life story, how many kids you have, where you live and what your hobbies are. Your current profession and any writing credits (except self-publishing – as this does not count), are all they need to know. If you have no writing credits, don’t worry, it’s not an issue. Some people truly are first time authors, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Also briefly mention what other writing projects you are working on – it shows the agent you are busy with other ideas and plans and that you are a hard worker.
Don’t forget to tell them you have also attached/enclosed a synopsis and the first three chapters / or first fifty pages (depending on the agent’s guidelines on submissions) and always thank them for their time and consideration.
Just remember, no cover letter is standard or written in stone. You do not have to present the details of your letter in the exact order shown here, as this is just a guide. But the advice to any would be author when submitting a letter is to be unique, interesting, upbeat, individual, professional and courteous. It’s your introduction to them. It’s a sales pitch.
Make them want to represent you.